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Thursday, January 28, 2021

APCO: Resolved at Last

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By Dr Ed Escultura

It was quite unprecedented in the Fil-Oz community. While the President, Violeta G. Escultura, of the Alliance of Philippine Community Organisations, Inc. (APCO) was chairing the first general membership meeting in the Property Investors Alliance (PIA) conference room at 3: pm, April 10, 2018, 8 of the 14-member Board of Directors of APCO (one had previously resigned) were meeting simultaneously in Marconi Club chaired by Senior Vice President Cora Paras and called themselves APCO.

It was like a cultural tsunami had hit the Alliance. The situation looked quite bleak for the remaining six members of the Board, the assistant treasurer, assistant secretary and the members of the APCO think tank that comprise the President’s Team. One member of the Team even asked the President to simply resign and yield the helm to the Paras group. At the same time, since the Team is immersed in community service, the many affiliates of APCO represented in the team remain firmly on the side of the President. Only the Visayan-Australian Association switched to the Paras Group.

The conduct of the meetings of the Paras group disappointed Board member Cora Bojarski that she resigned from that group and returned to the side of APCO President Escultura bringing the balance of forces in the Board down to 7:7. Thus, even the majority they counted on vanished. Still, the resolution of the conflict was nowhere in sight. Neither the APCO constitution nor the Office of Fair Trading model constitution offers a way out of the impasse. Undaunted, the think tank looked elsewhere: the Associations Incorporation Act of 2009, No. 7 (NSW). Sure enough, there is a provision in it that says, when there is a division in the Board, the party that follows the constitution is the legitimate one. The Act saved the day for APCO. Then, everything else on the road to recovery to return to the summit of its achievements during the last 9 years is spelled out in the APCO constitution and the Associations Incorporation Act of 2009 (NSW).

That meeting in Marconi Club was the first major breach of the APCO constitution by the Paras group. It was followed by a series of breaches that culminated in the Paras Team unconstitutionally electing themselves officers and Board members of “APCO” on August 26, 2018. Some duly elected Board members of APCO were even included in the Paras’ Board without their knowledge.

With the guidance of the APCO advocate, the President took a series of steps every little detail of which in accordance with the APCO constitution. She called an emergency meeting of the Board on September 12, 2018. With the exception of the Grievance Advocate, Charles Chan, the Board approved a resolution to serve notices of revocation and suspension (for six months) of membership, complete with bills of particulars, to Jhun Salazar, Public Officer, Pet Storey, Past APCO President and the remaining 7 erring members of the APCO Board, now belonging to the Paras group. The notices were sent out the next day. Charles Chan informed them that, according to the APCO constitution, they had 14 days to respond. They ignored the notice and the 14-day period expired on September 30, 2018 whereupon Charles Chan sent them notice that the case against them is closed and the revocation and suspension are final. The President called a meeting of the Board on October 6, 2018 chaired by the Grievance Advocate, Charles Chan, which approved his recommendation that the revocation and suspension of the said individuals are now in effect. The President formed an ad hoc Board of Directors by appointing members to fill up the casual vacancies created by the revocation and suspension. Their appointment was confirmed at the special APCO membership meeting on October 13, 2018 in the Arts, Culture and Innovation Central in Campbelltown. The APCO Board has a new face with the election of three members from APCO affiliates in Wollongong.

The new officers and composition of the APCO Board

President – Violeta Escultura, Filipino Women Support Group Inc
Senior Vice President – Mariam McCauley, Club Filipino Illawara Inc
Jr Vice President – Charles Chan, Sedgwick Housing Co-operative Ltd
Secretary – Carmen Fraser
Treasurer – Jimmy Lopez, NARRA Co-op Ltd
Auditor – Marissa Collins, Global Ilocanos Australia Inc
PRO – Ralph Improgo
Director – Cora Bojarski, Fil-Oz Liverpool
Director – Emma Braceros, Filipinas Dance Group
Director – Pitz Dorninger, Illawara Filipino and Muticultural Womens Group
Director – Rose Lay, Filipino Women Support Group
Director – Glorina Papaiannou
Director – Zeny Piosik
Director – Albert Prias, Flagcom
Director – George Torres, Plaza Filipino Inc
Public Officer – Ruben Amores, Kapitbahayan Co-operative Ltd
Adviser – Cen Amores, Kapitbahayan Co-operative Ltd and Past President APCO
What is the take on the issue at hand?

Since APCO proceeded to resolve the issue in accordance with the APCO constitution (to the minutest detail) and the Associations Incorporation Act of 2009, No. 7 (NSW), it has reached two milestones that effectively resolve the issue:

  • There is only one Alliance of Philippine Community Organisations, Inc. registered with the Office of Fair Trading and the President is Violeta Escultura, Ruben Amores the Public Officer. The other officers and Board members of APCO are duly entered in its records.
  • The duly recognized signatories to the APCO Commonwealth Bank account are Violeta Escultura, Jimmy Lopez, Ruben Amores, Cora Bojiarski and Carmen Fraser. In fact, Jimmy Lopez has withdrawn the balance of $12,000 and put it in another bank account for safe keeping.

What does these all mean? It means that Violeta Escultura is the legitimate President of APCO registered with OFT and since there cannot be two separate organizations with the same name, the other “APCO” led by Cora Paras is illegitimate.

The only remaining work to do is to compel Paras and her team to desist from using the APCO name, Banner and logo in their unconstitutional activity. Legal action will commence if they persist.

Now, Cora Paras has cried to the whole world through Facebook that Jimmy Lopez has run off with the $12,000. Does she really believe that Commonwealth Bank allowed an illegal transaction? No, Cora; Jimmy Lopez is simply protecting the money from illegal withdrawal by an illegitimate organization and we owe him lots of congratulations for that.

This unique experience which APCO now shares with the Filipino-Australian community sets a new standard for resolving internal conflict in an organization. Adherence to the constitution and the law is essential. Debate and dialogue cannot resolve it especially when one party does not abide by the rules – the APCO constitution and the law.

Dr Ed Escultura is a freelance journalist and past science editor and columnist, The Manila Times. He is also the husband of APCO President Violeta Escultura.

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